13.39 Adoption Assistance


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Adoptive assistance is provided to families with an adoptive child(ren) who meet the special needs adoption criteria as a support to better meet their needs and maintain their adoptive placement. Adoptive families are given detailed information concerning the full range of financial supports, medical assistance, and services available to them and their child(ren) with special needs. The Kentucky Adoptive Assistance Handbook is made available for adoptive families and a copy of the adoptive child(ren)'s presentation summary is provided to the family. Adoption assistance may include one (1) or more of the following options:

  • Monthly subsidy; 
  • Non-recurring expenses; and 
  • ​Extraordinary medical expenses.

The monthly subsidy is a rate established by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (Cabinet/CHFS) and shall not exceed the amount paid for foster care maintenance for the same child (including those rates designated as medically complex and care plus). 1 Please see SOP 13.40 for the procedural instructions for calculating the monthly subsidy amount.

The purpose of non-recurring adoption assistance is to offset the expenses of adopting a child with special needs. The non-reoccurring expense shall not exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000). Allowable expenses include:

  • Court costs; 
  • Adoption fees; 
  • Attorney fees; 
  • Cost of adoptive home studies, including health and psychological examinations; 
  • Supervision of placement costs prior to adoption; and 
  • Transportation, food, and lodging for the child and adoptive parent(s), when necessary, to complete the adoptive placement or the adoption finalization process.

Extraordinary medical expenses are state-funded expenses related to a child’s special needs that existed prior to the adoption and are not reimbursable by private insurance, the medical card, or any other resource. Parents may be required to make a co-payment based on their income.

The Cabinet provides adoption assistance for children with special needs who meet the following criteria:

  • DCBS staff determines that the child will not be returned to the home of his parents, (e.g., termination of parental rights (TPR)); 
  • The child meets at least one (1)of the qualifying conditions (detailed in the practice guidance); 
  • A reasonable, but unsuccessful effort was made to place the child without providing adoption assistance, (e.g., referral to Kentucky Adoption Profile Exchange (KAPE) or out-of-state agency as there was no waiting family available, or conditions exist which have made it impossible to place such a child in the past without adoption assistance); or 
  • N/A is selected on the Adoption Assistance Request Form and Non-Recurring Adoption Expense Application if the child has a significant emotional tie to the foster parents and it would not be in the best interest of the child to pursue alternative adoptive options. ​

Practice Guidance

  • ​​Adoption assistance may be available to any child for whom an adoptive placement is unlikely without financial assistance and who has been identified as having special needs. Eligibility criteria for a child with special needs requires meeting one (1) or more of the following conditions or circumstances: 
  • A physical or mental disabi​lity; 
  • An emotional or behavioral disorder; 
  • A recognized risk of physical, mental, or emotional disorder; 
  • A member of a sibling group (defined as two (2) or more children) in which the siblings are placed together; 
  • Previous adoption disruption or multiple placements; 
  • A member of a racial or ethnic minority and two (2) years old or older; or 
  • Age seven (7) or older with a significant emotional attachment or psychological tie to his foster family and the Cabinet has determined that it would be in the child’s best interest to remain with the family. 
  • Children who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are eligible for title IV-E adoption assistance. This includes relative and non-relative independent adoptions when the child meets the requirements for SSI and is determined by the state to be a child with special needs PRIOR to the adoption being finalized. ​Inquiries concerning this should be directed to the central office Adoption Services Branch. 
  • Due to the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, the following groups of children are automatically eligible for title IV-E adoption assistance: 
  • Children who have been determined to have special needs and who have been in out-of-home care (OOHC) for sixty (60) consecutive months (on or after October 1, 2009) prior to their adoption; 
  • A child who is a sibling of an eligible child based on age or time in care, and placed in the same adoptive placement as the sibling; or 
  • Children who were sixteen (16) years of age in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2010, meet criteria for special needs acceptance, and are adopted from OOHC. 
  • Before the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), all children were considered an applicable child for determining eligibility for title IV-E adoption assistance as of October 1, 2017. However, FFPSA revised the program eligibility rules to delay phasing in the applicable child requirements based on the age of the child. Therefore, from January 1, 2018 until June 30, 2024, the applicable child requirements apply only to children who will be age two (2) or older by the end of the fiscal year in which their adoption assistance agreement was entered into. However, a child may still be considered an applicable child if the child is a sibling of an applicable child and meets requirements as detailed in section 473(a)(2)(A)(ii) of the Act. Title IV-E adoption assistance agreements entered into prior to January 1, 2018, are not affected by these changes. 
  • Beginning January 1, 2018, the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) must determine whether a child is an applicable child based on the child’s age by the end of the fiscal year in which their adoption assistance agreement was entered into as demonstrated by the table below:​
In the case of fiscal year:                  The applicable age is:

2010                                                     16

2011                                                     14
2012                                                     12

2013                                                     10

2014                                                     8

2015                                                     6

2016                                                     4

2017 - 2023                                          2

2024                                                       (or in the case of a child for whom an Adoption Assistance
                                                              Agreement is entered into under this section on or after 
                                                              July 1, 2024, any age)
2025 or thereafter                                any age

  • The SSW will take into consideration the circumstances of the adoptive parent(s) and the needs of the child being adopted when discussing adoption assistance payments; however, there is no income eligibility requirement (means test) for the adoptive parent(s) in determining their eligibility for adoption assistance.


Related Information

  • Children receiving entitlements (Social Security/RSDI-Survivor Disability Benefits, Black Lung Benefits, Veteran’s Administration Benefits, and Railroad Retirement) based on a parent’s death or disability are eligible to receive the benefits after adoption. The child may receive full entitlement benefits and the adoptive parents may receive full subsidy payment. The Social Security Administration (SSA) and other benefit agencies require adoptive parents to apply for entitlements after the finalized adoption. 
    • To enable consideration by SSA and other agencies for benefits, the adoptive parents sign a release of information for the child. These arrangements are made by the regional children’s benefits worker (CBW) through the SSW and the release of information is then sent to the central office children's benefits coordinator for processing at the following address:
      Cabinet for Health and Family Services Division of Administration and Financial Management
      275 East Main Street, 3W-C
       Frankfort, KY 40621 
  • Children may receive insurance settlements after adoption from a parent without a reduction of the adoptive parents' subsidy. 
  • On the day of the final approval of adoption, the children's benefits coordinator is notified by the CBW. The Cabinet notifies SSA of the adoption and any reserve benefits from the Children's Trust Fund are returned to the SSA. If a release of information has been supplied to the children's benefits coordinator, then SSA will be notified as to the identity and address of the adoptive family. If a release of information has not been provided, SSA will only be told that the child has been adopted and the date of the final adoption. 
  • If, after finalization of an agency adoption, it is determined that the adoptive family is financially approved by SSA to receive SSI benefits as payee on behalf of the adopted child, the adoption billing specialist is notified by the CBW. 
  • For children receiving adoption assistance under title IV-E who do not meet the criteria to be an applicable child, if those children receive both SSI (which is an entitlement but is based on a child’s disability and is income tested) and adoption assistance, the SSI benefit is reduced dollar for dollar by the amount of the monthly subsidy. In almost all cases, the amount of the subsidy exceeds the amount of the SSI. 
  • Children receiving SSI prior to final adoption may not be eligible after adoption because SSI is not entitlement, and eligibility is based on the adoptive family's income and the child's disability. Public Law 110-351 removed the means-tested eligibility criteria for an applicable child. Adoptive parents should contact the SSA with any questions. 
  • Due to the possible length of the determination process by SSA, the adoptive family may be sent a retro benefit upon the final approval of SSI. The retro benefit, up to the date of the final adoption, belongs to the Cabinet as the Cabinet paid the adoptive family a per diem during the approval process. The R&C worker instructs the adoptive family to forward the appropriate retro benefit amount to the Cabinet. The adoptive family writes a check to the State Treasury and attaches a note advising these are the funds owed to the Cabinet from retro SSI benefits and list adoptive name, original birth name, and social security number of the child. These documents are mailed to:
    Cabinet for Health and Family Services Division of Administration and Financial Management
    275 E. Main 3W-C
    Frankfort, KY 40621



  1. A special exception to the Cabinet’s established monthly adoption subsidy may be considered on behalf of the child in therapeutic foster care if the dollar amount is determined as necessary to meet the child’s needs and with Commissioner or designee approval. Staff should utilize the Adoption Monthly Payment Exception memo to include the supporting documentation, such as the child’s diagnoses, services currently being provided, and plan of care.